That’s it full stop …

full stop

full stop (Photo credit: same_same)

Alas, the sentence is being given a major hammering with the new generation who ignore the purpose of the tiniest punctuation in any language – the full stop, aka full point, point, period and dot. It is recognised as the mark that ends a sentence and is followed by a space before the next sentence (or paragraph) begins. A simple sentence contains just one verb, while the complex sentence can contain several clauses … but that is another story.

I grew up calling it a full stop, so forgive me if I’m a little nostalgic … but one has to settle on something. But I digress. The full stop can also be used at the end of a sentence fragment – a phrase if you like. That means there is no verb, for example, A cup of rice.  The full stop has a few other uses ~ as the decimal point in numbers and currency, in numbering, subsections and paragraphs in a document (for example, Section 7.3). And time, such as 10.30pm.

The full stop has even entered the digital age as the dot in web and email addresses. You will find it at the end of some abbreviations. In Australia, these are abbreviations that end with a letter that is not the last letter of the full word, for example, Rev. for Reverend. But it’s Dr for Doctor because the abbreviation ends with the last letter of the fully spelt out word.

Acronyms (such as ASEAN and Qantas) used to take full stops between each letter, but this is no longer the case in Australia, and I strongly suspect in America and Britain as well.

Little words doing a big job

Air France - KLM Douglas DC3

Air France - KLM Douglas DC3 (Photo credit: FrancoisRoche)

What would happen if we left out all those little words – the definite and indefinite articles? I can hear lots of people asking ‘What are they?’ … and indeed, I had to remind myself of their uncommon description, which only English teachers and writers with good grammar memories would know. Okay, you will know them when I show them to you. Three words come to mind, those being ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’. The first two are what are called indefinite articles, which simply means that they are used in front of nouns if the writer is not specifying anything. For example, I went on a flight on a DC3. I am not referring to a specific flight, and I am not referring to a specific DC3 plane. However, if I said, I went on the 4.50pm flight on the DC3 to Birdsville (yes, that is a real place in Australia), then I am specifying the flight as the 4.50pm one, and on the one plane going to Birdsville at that time.

The indefinite article ‘an’ is used if the noun begins with a vowel or the noun is pronounced as a vowel, as in a silent consonant. Examples are: An apple a day and An honest opinion.

As long as you remember the function of these three small but important words, then that is the main thing.